The Contributors' Column
HAVE you ever read Earnest Elmo Calkins’s autobiography, Louder, Please? It is, or should be, a classic of the literature of deafness. In human society deafness is more than a handicap — it is a tragedy. But here is an advertising agent to whom deafness has given concentration and a kind of visibility of ideas. Here’s a philosopher who has found in it a protection from intrusion, and uses it as an invitation to the friends he trusts. It is a book to turn a philosopher into a man and a man into a philosopher. Jesse E. Pope earned his Ph.D. at Columbia. He has taught at New York University and the University of Missouri, and of late years he has been living in Washington, following current economic history with earnest attention. William Gordon Stuart’s name does n’t suggest the muck and sweat which taught him his very practical creed. He has worked with his hands and he has thought about it. We print his story as a human exhibit A of Professor Pope’s thesis. George Herbert Palmer is the last survivor of that Department of Philosophy which a generation ago was the luminous jewel in Harvard’s crown.
George W. Gray’s excellent paper has had the advantage of a careful reading by Dr. Robert H. Goddard, of rocket fame. Robert Lynd, critic and essayist, lives in London, and knows a horse or a book when he sees one. ▵ Several of Elizabeth Coalsworth’s discriminating stories have appeared in the Atlantic. Merle Colby is a Boston bookseller whose tale of ‘Ten Thousand Handkerchiefs’ shows what he can do with a prose narrative. Leslie Hotson has just been spending two years of study and investigation in London. Mrs. Risloy, of Arkansas, is now preparing for the Atlantic a new series describing her adventures — and adventures they were — in an apple orchard. ▵ Few women have lived a fuller life or one more useful than Mrs. Vernon Kellogg, who was, be it remembered, the only woman on the Belgian Relief Commission. Duke Larson finds in Mongolia room enough for his herds and his horses. His wife went from America as a missionary, and as the children grow up they are shipped one by one to America for their education. ▵ An interesting and useful career was cut short when Russell W. Hendee died of a fever in Africa, whither he went on an exploration led by Harold Coolidge, Jr.Dr. Earl W. Anderson was on the teaching staff of Columbia University when he made a nation-wide survey of the rules and regulations surrounding teachers in forty-six states of the Union. Frederic F. Van de Water, of New York, is a journalist and fisherman. Charles C. Marshall, who, through the Atlantic Monthly, solicited from Governor Smith his famous Letter, in order that popular doubts of his availability as a Presidential candidate might be resolved in his favor, is also known as the author of The Roman Catholic Church in the Modern State and of Governor Smith’s American Catholicism — the latter a high tribute to Governor Smith’s integrity and intrepidity, Hilaire Belloc is an English historian of distinction, and a controversialist dangerous to meet.
Readers of the Atlantic well know our regard for the Society of Friends. Quite recently a leaflet reached this desk so devoid of the insistent typography of advertising that it was instinctively separated from the litter on the desk. In the whole range of the ephemeral literature of doctrinal divergence it would be hard to find the description of a sect more wholly in keeping with that simple Christianity which most of us, despite our vagaries, love and admire. Thinking that many of our readers may like to preserve it, we sought permission to reprint most of it here: —
This society makes no claim to be a church in the sense of assuming authority to settle questions of doctrine or of historic fact. We are a society of friends whose members owe each other friendliness, and claim no authority one over another. We have no formal creed, and such unity as we have — and we have a great deal — is due to the fact that reasonable minds working on the same materials are likely to arrive at similar conclusions. However, we demand no unity of opinion and we find both interest and stimulus in our many differences.
Most Friends agree that the Sermon on the Mount presents the highest ideal for a way of life; this we accept not only on authority from without but mainly as conviction from within. We thus unite on a common purpose; a human society organized on a basis of good will and friendliness. There are differences among us as to details and methods, but not as to this desired end. Our objective determines for us the meaning of EIGHT and WRONG. Right is that which serves the common purpose, wrong is that which hinders or thwarts it. It is the standard by which we undertake to test the organization of society, international policies, and indeed all human conduct and institutions. Our opposition to war is based on the conviction that war hinders the development of the world family; yet we do not exclude from membership those who do not have that conviction. Many of us feel that our industrial system is in need of changes, but we have not arrived at unity as to what should be done about it.
We have deferred until this point the use of the word GOD — a word of diverse and uncertain meaning. To us GOD means a unifying influence which makes men long for a brotherly world; which tends to bind men together in unity. Our religion is built on the experience of such a God as the Chief Imperative of life. We have never been very particular about names if only the meaning is plain. We have called this element of life the Seed, the Inner Light, the In-speaking Voice, the Christ within, the Word. We are willing to have still other names; ‘The power not ourselves that makes for righteousness’; The Hidden Dynamo, The Super-self, The World-father, all seem to be proper symbolisms. Of course we do not claim to know if God is a person as we are persons. As we look ourselves over it does n’t seem altogether probable that the power which draws humanity together into the spirit of brotherhood is just a greater person than ourselves. But ‘it is not a question of personality or something less, but of personality or something greater.’
Whatever God may be and whatever life may mean, we are not insured against loss, suffering, and death. But there is an element of life greater than our normal everyday selves which enables us to rise above loss and suffering and to face life and death without fear and with manly hearts.
The Religious Society of Friends is a group of people of good will, working together for mutual support in making the God-element of life the commanding element. We never altogether succeed in doing this, but the effort is an essential part of our religion. It is only by squarely facing what is that man may hope to accomplish what may be; wherefore religion as we understand it has nothing to fear from science. Indeed we welcome every extension of mental horizon, every new discovery as to the nature of the world we live in.
We believe there are many who would find a richer life in membership with us, and we know that we need the strength of larger numbers. We need too the fellowship of men and women of intelligence and courage.
Distance, thank God, is no barrier to Atlantic friendships. From Shanghai Miss Louise Strong Hammond enlarges our circle.
DEAD ATLANTIC, &EMDASH;
This is to introduce to you my friend Mrs. Yang. I don’t know whether you will like her or not. It will hardly trouble her if you don’t! But if you could really see her, you could n’t help liking her.
Mrs. Yang is one of my neighbors in Nanking, where I have been living since my return to China in the same little Chinese house I fled from before. I wear Chinese clothes, eat Chinese food, and live with five very charming Chinese girls. We have our reception room furnished in Chinese style, with some quite lovely water-color paintings on the wall. A few days ago I came here as a refugee at the orders of the American Consul, but I hope to be able to return to Nanking soon.
THE BAMBOO-WORKER’S WIFE
What a gift to be so gay!
How, without a golden lorgnon,
Can you hold your head that way?
All is right, for you are you.
Smallest things delight your notice.
Truths are old, but facts are new.
Leaving you alone at five.
Little ‘Picked-up-fish’ they called you
When they found you still alive.
Where your father went before.
Love is old — you find another
And are safe inside his door.
For the widow who — but here
Scorn has still its prick of anguish
In the wisest heart. It’s queer.
When you act outside the Law
And your later husband wonders
If he’s still the latest — faugh!
Of all truths; most lasting, too.
Scant the rice you cook; he earns it
By his weaving of bamboo,
That the common people use.
Once he made an arch for roses —
Did it seem like flight of muse?
Truths forgot, you laugh at facts —
‘What odd shoes that child is wearing!
How absurd the barber acts!’
Deal in Truth as my bamboo.
Truth has wonders I must sell you.
Gayety I ’ll buy of you.
To a fellow-indigent in this collecting world we owe a pleasant new specialty.
NEW YORK CITY
DEAR ATLANTIC, &EMDASH;
Did the gentleman who wrote on ‘A Collection for the Indigent’ in the November Atlantic ever note the new individual words that appear? I first began this collection when I was stopped by a huge truck bearing down upon me which carried across its front in very large letters the single word ‘Truckologist.’ I have been sorry ever since that I was so stupefied by the title that I neglected to get the name of the firm or individual that operated the truck.
Soon after that I saw advertisements containing the words ‘Beautician wanted.’ Well, why not? We have ‘ mortician ’ already in the addenda to my 1925 edition of Webster’s Unabridged; why should ‘beautician’ not be installed there also?
A society new to me has recently painted its title on a window which I often pass; Hygiologists Organization. My dictionary gives me ‘hygiology, the science of hygiene.’ So why should there not be those that practise that science in an organization— although, in spite of the English title, I suspect from the surroundings that this particular organization may be of foreign origin? Again, my curiosity was aroused by the words on a drug store window, ‘candy toiletries.'
And there are doubtless many other ‘new’ words.
E. C. ALLING
Among the comments on Mr. Smith’s incisive paper, ‘The Break in the Credit Chain.’ is the following.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
I have read with great interest the article by Mr. E. L. Smith in the January number. He may be right in his strictures on the technique of credit. But is not the ‘ customer’s man ’ merely a flea (if sometimes a highly trained one) in our credit structure, and are not margin accounts merely a retail method of dispensing credit supplied by bank and investment trusts? Is not credit merely a nebulous term arising from the Latin creditum, meaning ‘loan’?
We are not primarily interested in credit, but in what causes credit.
This is, of course, impossible to determine. We do know, however, that the genesis of the late lamented bull market was in 1922, and that from 1922 June to 1927 June about $800,000,000 in gold came to us. We imported a white elephant and this $800,000,000 was increased 17 1/2, times to thirteen billion dollars odd loans and investments by our obliging banks. Concurrently there came the children of credit: the realty boom, an installment boom, a bond boom, a ‘new era’ standard of living. These all faded like the costly orchid on the corsage. However, there remained the most beautiful orchid of them all — the stock market boom. And that has wilted.
Is it not possible to trace these booms back to gold ‘inventory ’? The matutinal press from 1922 to date has told us not to accumulate inventories. But we were quietly amassing a fabulous gold inventory.
Will not the many kind economists who write for the press with all the verve and brio of Mr. Brisbane tell us what to do with excess gold in a Central Bank? If domestic acceptances and bonds are bought, will there not be more inflation whether it exists in the stock market or elsewhere (if the member banks are expanding as well)? What would happen if the Central Bank was to buy foreign paper of a sound country needing gold? A fair distribution of gold is the universal ideal.
In this connection Mr. Edgar Lawrence Smith might have performed a very patriotic service had he stood under the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor for the last eight years. He might have dressed as King Canute. As each shipload of gold approached New York, by a magic gesture he might have turned its head back to Europe. But why bother with fleas and technique when one has to contend with a white elephant?
What with golf, breakfast foods, and the Life Institute, health threatens to become the national preoccupation. A scientist deeply engaged in the dissemination of health knowledge passes on to us this inquiry, which enlivened a busy morning.
I red an artickle under the heading of your Institute in the Milford Chronicle about Pnumonia the Dr said they had never been able to find any jerms I have have had some experence with Pneumonia I found one jerm that will cause Pneumonia it is eggs laid by sick chickens I showed some eggs that was laid sick chicken to one of the leading M D of this city and he said he was sure I had discovered 90% of the Pneumonia jerms But he would den offer any help to me to get my discovery before the public I cant get a patten on the cure as there was one taken out 63 years ago. My Lawyer said it was so near to what I had that I coulden get a clear title Will it be worth any thing to your Institute for me to prove the cure on my self I can eat cirten food for about 4 or 5 days and then go in an ice box long enough to chill my buidy and bring on a fever of 103 to 104 and in 12 hours I will walk out of any Hospital my temeture normal, it no truble if you know just what to get the egg from a sick chicken is the most dangerous food that a person can eat.
May we have the censor’s ear for a moment? Or is he too busy reading questionable books? A scholar writes us from Philadelphia.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
In relation to the question broached in your January number, as to what is ‘ obscene ’ in print, I recall an experience, when, at the Public Library of my own city, I picked up a volume of Greek poems translated into English, and in one of them found interrupting the course of the six or seven readable stanzas.
At first I thought this might represent a ‘lost’ portion, as in some of the odes of Sappho, but as the subject was not then very important I gave little thought to it, until some time later when in an Italian library I found the same composition in that language, and, much to my surprise, the same star-lined interval, only at a different point!
Reviewing the first reading, I remembered the significance of the verse omitted by the Italians as not fit to print, and read the revealed four lines banned by the Anglo-Saxon publishers, and could not see that either had any evil import.
It was a good lesson in international understanding of how one man’s meat is poison to another. The author, according to my sense of the unmutilated original, aimed to express a beautiful idea of Nature, as was the purpose of Greek art, of which the subsequent peoples could only realize a fragment, and each a different part of that whole, or wholeness — the real meaning of ‘holiness.’
This is why modern art is walking lame.
HOWARD FREMONT STRATTON
Here is an interesting communication on the same vexed subject.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
I am deeply interested this month in your discussion of ‘The Shadow of Censorship’ through the essays of William Allan Neilson and Edward Weeks.
Obscenity, one of the windmills at which censorship charges, is a changing value through literature, with a different appeal to the tastes of different ages. What is shocking in one period may be accepted as tradition in another, the issue resting entirely with the popular point of view of the day.
Surely Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales were not ‘obscene’ from the date of their publication to the dawn of the Puritan era; yet to the modern reader nothing smacks more of pornography than the Wife of Bath’s Prologue, or the rollicking tales of the Miller and the Reeve. Surely the thirty-eighth chapter of Genesis was not ‘obscene’ to the ancient Hebrew, though we never mention, in polite society, its ninth verse, something in the light of our day altogether too frank, and doubtless literature’s first record of birth control. In reality, at a time when a greater birth rate was a racial necessity, this interesting verse, and its sequel in the next, carried a moral instruction. Even so, it is enough legally to bar the Bible from our mails, and from Boston bookstands.
In the instance of The Canterbury Tales I am inclined to the view that Chaucer was under the influence of the Greeks — a matter for scholarly dispute, but nevertheless interesting.
In the Philebus Plato held that comedy and tragedy were an outlet to dammed-up psychic energy, a safety valve for hatred, envy, joy, and sorrow, a theory which had a profound influence upon Grecian drama and the literature which led from the Greek to the Roman and from the Roman to Chaucer.
It is highly probable that this, or a similar point of view, accounted for the purposeful obscenities of the Phallic Procession at the rural Dionysia, an annual spring pilgrimage. When the ancient Greek arrived at the shrine of Phallus, the god of generation, his heart must be pure. Consequently, along the route of the pilgrimage, it was imperative that he purge his spirit of all that was unclean. Here obscenity took on the dignity of ritual. It was perfectly proper, and a matter of religious devotion, for him to indulge in every form of obscenity, and the more the better, and the purer his heart before Phallus. In story, sometimes in action, he freed his spirit of evil thoughts — he came to the god of generation with his possibilities for sexual wrongdoing completely exhausted. Doubtless these Phallic tales were interesting even to the ancient Greeks. The Phallic tradition, whether or no, certainly carried on down into the literary periods which followed.
The Canterbury procession, I am convinced, was a modified Phallic procession — at least here is a parallel in an annual spring pilgrimage at the natural season of generation, and along the way such obscenity as the Greeks might have treasured.
I have been much among certain tribes of the Northwest Indians. Even here there are traces of a Phallic worship, one that could not have come from the Greeks. It is also found in the religious rituals of other races.
Writers are not a little bound by the traditions and conventions of their age; few of them work carelessly enough to create, on any constant scale, accidental effects, particularly such a skillful artist as Chaucer, and others in France and Italy at this same period.
Our own conventional distaste for obscenity has its roots in religious background — the Puritan era and its dogmatic barriers between sexes, traces of which still survive, though a lady’s leg to-day has display privileges not permitted her grandmother’s limbs a half century ago.
It may be that we are swinging back. The spirit of revolt expressed against censorship may be one indication — at any rate, the problem is interesting. I have enjoyed both essays on the subject, and shall look forward to the others which your publication promises.
Most sincerely yours,
H. W. WHICKER
Professor Palmer tells us that growing old is a methodical business, but do not fear! The world is full of octogenarians who have become so by glorious accident, in defiance of virtue, prudence, and religion. Hard drinkers, Sabbath breakers, wasters, and wife beaters have lived to ruddy old age, while modest, temperate men and pious planners have gone down early into the tomb without any pleasant excesses to remember or to furnish their survivors with anecdotes. I have n’t a doubt that the Prodigal Son lived to dandle his grandchildren on his knee, that he was still enjoying well-fatted calves and telling tall stories of his days as a swineherd long after his jealous brother lay mouldering under the dew. Professor Palmer’s illustrious ancestor, George Herbert, died of consumption at forty, although, as far as I am able to learn, he was not a violent man, and Spent most of his active life in Holy Orders. Perhaps he was not enough of a Prodigal to please his Maker.
Professor Palmer cannot be credited with laying down a universal regimen for longevity. There are many kinds of old age, and as many ways of reaching them. He has told us how he reached his own old age, and all who know him know how beautiful and gracious it is. Often those who have lived, like Professor Palmer, to boast of ‘reaching a great age’ leave behind them ‘a great age.’ His paper will bring curious reflections to those who think of him as one of the surviving figures of that brilliant constellation of philosophers that burned a generation ago at Harvard. A special sign of the zodiac should be devised to commemorate them. It is odd to find the colleague of James, of Royce, of Santayana, of Münsterberg, discussing every intimacy of the digestion, and warning us not to gulp our milk. By such prudent advices, so simply and so charmingly uttered, a wise and a long life is ordered, it may be. Yet it is hard not to imagine those great colleagues, from their European retirement, or from the more august obscurity of Limbo, gazing with mildly lifted eyebrow at this message to a race which has never been hospitable to divine philosophy. Mr. Santayana, for one, steadfastly pursuing the eternal essence that luminously resides in each mortal event, and regarding the vulgar human show with benign disillusion, would feel that a philosopher should respect life less and philosophy more.
It is one of my later laments in life that I could not grow up fast enough to enter Harvard before Mr. Santayana left. At least I have his books to help me avert the Fool’s reproach to King Lear: ‘Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise.’ Professor Palmer, too, had retired from active teaching when I reached college. But I once lunched in his company at another professor’s house. He will not remember the occasion; nor shall I forget it — the beauty of his courageous blue glance, his measured and Olympian speech, falling in perfect impromptus, no less perfect, only more gentle, than Dr. Johnson’s own. This memory gives piquancy to the privilege of disagreeing with him now.
Professor Palmer thinks religious faith an aid to longevity. A belief in the friendliness of the universe conduces to good spirits and so to long life. Professor Palmer’s own spirit is so benign that it may well be impossible for him to conceive of ‘the sorry scheme of things entire’ as other than well disposed. But a belief in the hostility of the universe may rouse that ‘ courage never to submit or yield’ which is sometimes equally sustaining. Religious belief, on the other hand, reconciles men to death, and no doubt has often hastened its approach. But, these questions aside, is religious belief to be recommended because it is an aid to long life? Professor Palmer would never say so, I am sure. His famous colleagues used to be outspoken in their disagreements— would that the academic tradition of the day encouraged a like friendly frankness! I cannot believe that Professor Palmer ever concurred in the philosophic monstrosity fathered by James, the pragmatic confusion of truth and utility.
He suggests independent grounds for his belief when he writes that ‘evil involves selfcontradiction,’ and that ‘nothing can be harmoniously bad.’ Like an impudent sophomore, I rise to ask ‘Why?’ Harmony is selective. A philosophic or scientific system manages to be harmonious because there is so much, so very much, that it excludes! What harmony could be expected from counting all the facts in the universe, or from playing all the notes on the piano? A selection of notes may make a very pretty tune, and a selection of facts may make a very pretty theology. The universe is a great dustbin from which by selection we can produce a sort of harmony; but the evil is all there with the good, and while they may contradict each other as shrilly as cats, nothing so contradicts itself that it cannot go right on existing. Even mathematics has its irrational numbers and incommensurable quantities, and certainly the universe has its waste, its friction at the joints, its parasites, its holocausts. Evil has its symmetries as well as good. ’The Miller’s Tale,’ a rough and improper fabliau, is quite as harmonious as ‘The Knight’s Tale,’ an embodiment of chivalry. And we may all hope to grow old in spite of these contradictions.
But do we all wish to grow old? The truth is, of course, that no one wants to die, but no one wants to be methodical, foresighted, and prudent except where he has to be. Most of us endure these oppressive virtues in business in the hope of laying by enough so that eventually we can lay them by also, and live indolently, by impulse, as we should really like to do. We will not impose a strict regimen on ourselves merely for the sake of growing old. That somehow contradicts the instinctive sense of the value of life which most of us feel, fools that we are. This value is better exemplified by the spendthrift than the miser. No, most of us would rather grow old by luck, and if we can’t grow old we would rather miss the mark than aim at it too conscientiously or with too much fear of failure. So we say7 while we are in midstream, at any rate. Life, long or short, is a moving target. Hold the gun too long and too anxiously at the shoulder, and the fleet quarry will escape in the dark of the forest. Shoot from the hip, and an inspired coup may bring the beautiful, antlered game to your bag.
THE OFFICE ICONOCLAST